June 19, 2008
The show goes on for Summer Rep at West High School, opening June 26
Iowa Summer Rep 2008 was driven from the Theatre Building by the flooding on the University of Iowa arts campus, but with the cooperation of the Iowa City Community School District, the show will go on in Iowa City West High School.
The festival of plays by Pulitzer Prize-winner David Lindsay-Abaire will provide some much-needed summer laughter -- as well as the release of some heartfelt and heart-wrenching drama about coping with loss. Summer Rep will open at 8 p.m. Thursday, June 26, in the West High Auditorium, with the wild comedy "Wonder of the World" -- which, coincidentally, features the power of water. Other performances will be at 8 p.m. June 27 and 28 and July 3 and 5, at 2 p.m. Sunday, June 29, at the 6 p.m. on Friday, July 4.
"Wonder of the World" will be followed by Lindsay-Abaire's Pulitzer winner, "Rabbit Hole," directed by Iowa Summer Rep regular Mary Beth Easley in the West High Little Theater. Performances will be at 8 p.m. July 1, 2, 6, 8-12, 15, 16 and 20, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, July 13.
In addition to its regular season, Iowa Summer Rep will recognize the courageous efforts by Iowa communities in the face of the disaster with a free preview of the first production, "Wonder of the World," at 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 25, in the West High Auditorium. This special preview performance will be open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis.
"Wonder of the World," directed by Iowa Summer Rep Artistic Director Eric Forsythe, is the story of Cass Harris, who has a list of 267 things she's determined to do in her lifetime (including learn Swedish, find her soul mate and compete on "The Newlywed Game") -- if only she wasn't stuck in a claustrophobic marriage.
When she discovers a twisted little secret in her husband's sweater drawer, she seizes the opportunity to throw herself back into life and, inspired by a Marilyn Monroe movie, heads to Niagara Falls.
On her hilarious adventure of self-discovery Cass is quickly checking items off her list as she crosses paths with a lovelorn alcoholic, a marriage therapist who moonlights as a clown, a salty sea captain, a pair of fumbling private detectives and a strange caper involving a gargantuan jar of peanut butter. What will happen as she's pushed perilously close to the water's edge?
Forsythe says, "Other than filling sandbags and generally keeping out of the way (both of which we've been doing), there's not much a theatre company can do in emergencies such as we continue to experience -- except to do what we do best: theatre!
"At times of stress, entertainment and diversion are crucial to people's well-being. Our goal for Summer Rep has always been, and continues to be, to offer the best possible professional theatre to our audiences. So we're rehearsing and building this wonderful season of plays, and watching the rivers like everyone else. Thanks to everyone, we're doing our part. So we look forward to welcoming our audiences on schedule at West High. Hang in there!"
Lindsay-Abaire won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for "Rabbit Hole," which originally starred Cynthia Nixon, Tyne Daly and John Slattery in New York. A departure from his absurdist comedies, this bittersweet, rich and humorous play depicts a couple struggling to cope with the accidental death of their young son.
The play floats on a tangle of "what-ifs" and "if-onlys": If only a doting father hadn't bought his boy a dog; if a loving mother had double-checked the latch on a gate; if on a fateful day, a teenager had taken another route home.
Easley comments, "One of the most beautiful plays I have ever had the pleasure of working on, 'Rabbit Hole' -- from its opening breath -- carries us on a heart-wrenching journey that is a testament to the resiliency of the human spirit and the strength of the family."
Ironically for the UI production, the New York Times Ben Brantley began his review, "The Biltmore Theater had better be paid up on its flood insurance. 'Rabbit Hole,' the wrenching new play by David Lindsay-Abaire that opened there last night, inspires such copious weeping among its audience that you wonder early on if you should have taken a life jacket. Do your best, though, to keep your eyes clear. . . . the sad, sweet release of 'Rabbit Hole' lies precisely in the access it allows to the pain of others, in its meticulously mapped empathy."
"It is as if Mr. Lindsay-Abaire had set for himself the task of holding up a mirror to life that for once didn't come from a fun house," Brantley continued. "The resulting work belongs squarely to the school of what were once called kitchen-sink dramas. But the sink, in this instance, has been polished to a high, reflective sheen. The dialogue is blessed with Mr. Lindsay-Abaire's customary grace and wit. But it never sounds less than organic."
Lindsay-Abaire has said, ""My plays tend to be peopled with outsiders in search of clarity." He cites an unlikely combination of influences that ranges from Edward Albee to the Marx Brothers and Abbott and Costello, and critic John Simon invented the term "Abairant" to describe a style that walks a fine line between dark drama and loony comedy.
"Wonder of the World" includes material that is not appropriate for small children. Potential audience members who are concerned about whether the play is appropriate for them should contact the Department of Theatre Arts, 319-335-2700, for additional information.
Iowa Summer Rep is an U/RTA (University/Resident Theatre Association) company employing Equity actors and stage managers, as well as students who earn points toward their Actors Equity card.
The University of Iowa Community Credit Union and the UI Summer Session support Iowa Summer Rep 2008.
The Department of Theatre Arts is part of the Division of Performing Arts in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
Tickets for each show are $24; senior citizen $20; UI student and youth $12. Both individual performance and advance ticket sales will be available at the door one hour before each performance. Advance tickets are not available by phone, but a website has been established for online sales: http://hancher.tardiscomm.com/.
Simultaneous purchase of all three Iowa Summer Rep productions qualifies for a substantial series discount.
For UI arts information and calendar updates, visit http://www.uiowa.edu/artsiowa. To receive UI arts news by e-mail, go to http://list.uiowa.edu/archives/acr-news.html and click the link "Join or Leave ACR News," then follow the instructions.
STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.
PHOTOS are available at www.flickr.com/photos/artsiowa